The Rise of Russia summary




The Rise of Russia summary


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The Rise of Russia summary

Chapter 24  The Rise of Russia

  1. Introduction

Between 1450 and 1750, Russia created a land-based empire. Much of the territory taken was Asian, but its acquisition elevated Russia to the status of chief power in eastern Europe. From a foundation derived from Byzantine culture, Russia embarked on a course of selective Westernization. Despite its willingness to emulate Western civilization, Russia remained outside the global trade system dominated by the West.

  1. Russia's Expansionist Politics Under the Tsars
    1. Introduction

The Duchy of Moscow led the movement to free Russia from Mongol influence. Under Ivan III Moscow freed much of Russia by 1462. In the process of expelling the Mongols, Ivan won a vast expanse of land for Russia.

    1. The Need For Revival

Although Russia had been within the Mongol orbit for a century, Russian culture and government was little affected by their former overlords. Local administration remained in the hands of local princes. The period of Mongol dominance had diminished literacy and economic growth. Russia remained a largely agricultural country. Ivan III reestablished centralized government in Russia, styled himself tsar, and proclaimed Russia the third Rome. His successor, Ivan IV, called the Terrible, continued the policy of territorial expansion and political centralization. Ivan IV killed many of the Russian boyars, or nobility to remove potential challengers to his authority.

    1. Patterns of Expansion

Ivan III and Ivan IV pressed Russian expansion into central Asia. Newly conquered lands were settled by peasants, called cossacks. A cross between farmers and warriors, the cossacks provided volunteers to press the frontiers farther eastward. Eventually they moved out of the region of the Caspian Sea into western Siberia. The tsars rewarded loyal followers with grants of land in the area of Asian conquest. Conquered peoples were occasionally reduced to slavery to feed the need for labor. The conquests provided new trade connections for Russia. Russian expansion eliminated the free peoples of Asia, from whom the various nomadic invaders of earlier civilizations had sprung. The conquests also produced great ethnic and religious diversity within the Russian empire.

    1. Western Contact and Romanov Policy

Both Ivan III and Ivan IV pursued cultural and commercial ties with the West. When Ivan IV died without an heir, boyars attempted to regain their former influence. Sweden and Poland invaded Russia in hopes of seizing territory. In 1613, this Time of Troubles was brought to an end when an assembly of boyars selected the Romanov dynasty to rule Russia. Although the Time of Troubles was temporarily catastrophic for Russia, it did not produce any lasting constraints on the power of the tsars.
Michael Romanov restored order and resumed foreign expansion. He successfully seized part of the Ukraine from Poland. Alexis Romanov restored tsarist autocracy. He abolished the assemblies of boyars and assumed direct state control over the Orthodox Church. After enacting reforms, the tsar exiled the "old believers", those who remained attached to the old rituals, to Siberia.

  1. Russia's First Westernization, 1690-1790
    1. Introduction

By the end of the seventeenth century, Russia remained an agricultural nation with limited cultural achievement. Peter I, called the Great, concentrated on emulation of the West as a means of developing a more diverse economy and culture.

    1. Tsarist Autocracy of Peter the Great

Peter retained the autocratic structure of Russian government. He recruited bureaucrats from outside the ranks of the aristocracy and granted titles of nobility to those who served well. He improved the Russian military through the introduction of Western reforms. The tsar created the Secret Police to prevent dissent and oversee the bureaucracy. In foreign affairs, Peter attacked both the Ottoman Empire and Sweden, his rival on the Baltic Sea. Victories over Sweden allowed the tsar to move his capital from Moscow to St. Petersburg.

    1. What Westernization Meant

Peter the Great streamlined the military and political organization of Russia along Western institutional lines. The army, local administration, and the Orthodox Church were all brought more firmly under autocratic control. Economic reforms concentrated on Russia's mining and metallurgy sectors. Improvement allowed Russia to achieve independence in these areas from the West. In order to cut off the Russian elite from their traditional cultural background, Peter enforced Western styles of dress and personal appearance. Schools emphasizing mathematics and science were constructed to introduce Western intellectual developments. Among the elite, Peter successfully Westernized Russian society. Changes did not extend to peasants or commoners.
New manufacturing sectors in Russia continued to be based on partially coerced labor systems. The intent of the economic development was to strengthen the military, not to enter the global commercial system. Some elements of Russian society bitterly opposed the reforms as attacks on traditional Russian customs.

    1. Consolidation Under Catherine the Great

After the death of Peter the Great in 1724, there were a series of weak rulers dominated by the military. In 1761 the retarded Peter III became tsar, but was rapidly replaced as the effective power by his wife, Catherine the Great. Catherine continued the policy of autocratic centralization and suppressed the uprising of peasants under Emelian Pugachev. Catherine flirted with Enlightenment ideas and attempted legal reforms along Enlightenment concepts.
However, Caterine also favored centralization and a strong tsarist hand, and she strengthened the power of the nobility over the Russian peasantry. The nobility continued to serve as the primary source of recruits for the bureaucracy and military. Landlords gained almost absolute jurisdiction over the peasants who resided on their estates. Catherine turned rapidly against Western ideas during the French Revolution and censored Russian intellectuals who criticized autocracy. Catherine pressed the attack on the Ottoman Empire, gaining lands in the Crimea.
Russia colonized Siberia, and explorers reached Alaska and the California coast. Catherine directed an aggressive foreign policy against Prussia and Poland. In 1772, 1793, and 1795, Russia participated in the partition of Poland, which ceased to exist as an independent state. In some ways, Russian expansion was reminiscent of the early United States.

  1. Themes in Early Modern Russian History
    1. Introduction

Unlike the West, Russian economy continued to rely on a coercive labor system and a repressive serfdom. The Russian nobility enjoyed a position of power because of its authority over the peasantry and its service relationship to the state.

    1. Serfdom: The Life of East Europe's Masses

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Russia saw an intensification of serfdom. After the expulsion of the Mongols, the Russian nobles, with the consent and assistance of the central government, gained almost exclusive ownership of the land. When new conquests were added to the Russian empire, serfdom was extended. By 1800, half of the peasantry was enserfed to the nobility, the other half to the state. An act of 1649 made the status of serfdom hereditary. In much of Russia, the condition of serfdom approached slavery.
Eastern Europe also adopted a coercive labor system based on serfdom. Coerced labor supported the dependent agricultural economy of eastern Europe within the global commercial network dominated by the West. In Russia and most of eastern Europe, it was possible for landlords to sell whole villages of serfs as manufacturing laborers. Serfs were not quite slaves. They remained free to manage their village governments, but they were subject to taxation, owed labor services to lords and the government, and were subject to landlords' jurisdiction. The onerous conditions produced occasional rebellions, such as the Pugachev revolt of the 1770s.

    1. Trade and Economic Dependence

Aside from the nobility and the serfs, there was little social stratification in Russia. There were few artisans and an inadequate merchant class. Without classes directly related to commerce and manufacturing, the state was left to handle trade and industrialization. International trade was handled through Western merchant companies located in the capital city. The Russian economy was sufficiently expansive to support military conquest, a substantial nobility, and population growth. Both agricultural and industrial production lagged behind Western standards. To a certain extent, Russia was self-sufficient and did not fall into total dependence on the West.
Russia's most profitable trade was with central Asia and internal. Russia did become increasingly dependent on exports of raw materials to the West to support its program of acculturation. Russia's political dominance in central Asia set it apart from other dependent regions of the world.

    1. Social Unrest

The conditions of Russia did produce intellectual dissatisfaction and criticism of the government. Peasants resented the overweening authority of their landlords, and rebellions were frequent. Both intellectual and peasant dissatisfaction engendered repressive measures on the part of the government. Russia's total dependence on serfdom as a source of labor produced an inflexible economy that eventually challenged the country's political and social stability.

  1. Conclusion

The expansion of Russia reduced eastern Europe to a narrow band separating Russia from the West. Poland, the Czech, and Slovak regions of Europe remained more a part of the Western tradition than part of the Russian cultural milieu. These areas participated in the scientific revolution and the Protestant Reformation of the West. Even those areas that remained outside of Russian political control tended to fall under the aegis of the authoritarian regimes of Prussia and Austria.
Perhaps the most striking political feature of the period was the decline of Poland from the largest entity in eastern Europe to subdivision among Russia, Prussia, and Austria. The existence of a dominant aristocracy, coercive agricultural labor systems, and the absence of a substantial merchant class were common to eastern European nations and Russia. The eclipse of Poland highlighted the emergence of the Russian empire in Europe and central Asia


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The Rise of Russia summary


                          Page 404 – 419



  1. Russia’s Expansionist Politics under the Tsar


Between1450 and 1650, Russia began its process of territorial expansion while working to strengthen the tsarist state in what proved to be the first phase of the empire’s early modern development. This process was externally challenged by Russian neighbors especially Poland, Sweden, and the Ottoman Empire. Internally, the nobles were often the largest impediment to centralization and state power.

 Russia’s First Westernization, 1690 – 1790

By the late 17th century, Russia was poised for dramatic, if selective, internal change. Peter the Great led the first Westernization effort in history, changing Russia permanently and providing a model for later Westernization attempts elsewhere. Peter and his successors used Westernization to bolster Russia’s expansionist empire, without intending to become a truly Western society.

Themes in Early Modern Russia History


Russian society differed greatly from that of the West. It focused on serfdom and a deep-rooted peasant culture. The gap between Russia’s traditional economic and social structure and its Westernization efforts at the top set up some durable tensions in the nation’s history, visible even today. Although Russian serfdom was particularly severe, a similar social system developed in other east European areas.

Conclusion: Russia and Eastern Europe

Russian history did not include the whole of Eastern Europe after the 15th century, although Russia’s expansion, particularly its final acquisition of much of Poland, did merge much of the larger region into the Russian embrace. Regions west of Russia continued to form a fluctuating borderland between West and East European influences. Even in the Balkans under Ottoman control, growing trade with the West sparked some new cultural exchange by the 18th century as Greek merchants picked up many Enlightenment ideas. Areas such as present-day Poland or the Czech and Slovak regions operated more fully within Western cultural orbit and participated in such Western currents as the Renaissance and Reformation. At the same time, many smaller east European nationalities lost political autonomy and fell under the control of the Catholic Hapsburgs ruling from Vienna or the Turks in Istanbul. The decline of Poland was particularly striking. From a 15th century position of most powerful state in eastern Europe through 1793, the date it disappeared from the map, Poland’s collapse and eventual partition stand in sharp contrast to Russia’s emergence as the dominant power in the East.

  1. Into what areas did Russia expand and how was this accomplished?


  1. How had the Mongol rule affect Russia?
  1. What role did the “West” play in early modern Russia?


  1. What is “westernization” and what did it mean for Russia?
  1. How did Peter the Great and Catherine the Great modernize Russia?


  1. What forces resisted modernization and westernization in Russia? Why?
  1. What was the connection between expansion and modernization?


  1. What themes have dominated Russian history and how have they affected Russian development?
  1. What is a multinational state and how does it differ from a nation-state?




  1. Third Rome
  1. Boyars


  1. Cossacks
  1. Time of Troubles


  1. Old Believers
  1. St. Petersburg vs. Moscow


  1. Westernization vs. Modernization
  1. Westernizer


  1. Partition of Poland
  1. Serf


  1. Multinational states
  1. Obrok


  1. Map 18.1: Russian Expansion under the Early Tsars, 1462-1598 (Page 407)
  2. Map 18.2: Russia under Peter the Great (Page 509)
  3. What city-state formed the core of the Russian empire?
  1. Where did Russia expand first? Later?


  1. How would you describe Siberia?
  1. What lands has Russia acquired since 1598?



  1. Map 18.2: Russian Holdings by 1800 (Page 414)
  2. Using maps at the front of the book, how have geography, climate and distance directed and limited Russian expansion?
  1. How might geography, climate, and distance affect the governance of Russia?


  1. Using the map on page 325, what states probably opposed Russian expansion?


  1. DOCUMENT ANALYSIS: The Nature of Westernization (Pages 412 – 413)
  1. Document Analysis

Who wrote the document? (Attribution includes biographical references)


What is the author’s point of view?


How reliable is the document? Why?

  1. What is the intent or purpose behind the document?


Who is the intended audience?


  1. What is the document’s tone?
  1. Conclusions
  2. To what degree is modernization really westernization? Are they the same?


  1. Why would Russian tsars seek to modernize and westernize?
  1. Why would Western thinkers admire Peter and Catherine?


  1. Why would Russian peasants oppose Peter and Catherine?


  1. PHOTO ESSAY: The Two Worlds of Russia (Pages 405, 408, 411, 413, 416, and 417)

Although Russia westernized and modernized, the changes created a two-tiered society defined by two distinctive cultures. One segment favored by urban and aristocratic elites copied European culture and traditions and looked to the “West” for guidance. The other culture was based on the land of Russia and favored Russia’s traditional heritage of serfs, the land, autocratic rule, and Orthodoxy.

Compare and contrast the two worlds of Russia – the Western cultures and the traditional Russian heritage – for daily lives, customs, education, work, and religion.


  1. VISUALIZING THE PAST: Opposed Peasants (Page 417)


Historical paintings are supposed to portray with a degree of accuracy, historical events. Accuracy is especially difficult if the subject is painted centuries after the events. And all paintings represent the artist’s perception of the event and include his or her biases. Nevertheless, historical paintings can teach us about history.

  1. Based on the painting describe 17th century peasant life?


  1. Why is it unlikely that a 17th century Russian painter would have depicted peasants?
  1. Why might a 20th century painting about 17th century peasants be inaccurate and biased?


  1. If poverty levels are accurately rendered, what conclusions can you draw about 17th and 20th century peasant life?
  1. About what items would the artist have had to guess?




  1. In order to expand, Russia had to defeat all these neighboring states EXCEPT:
  2. Austria.
  3. Sweden.
  4. Poland-Lithuania.
  5. Ottoman Empire.
  6. Khanate of the Golden Horde.
  1. Russia did not experience either the Renaissance or Reformation because
  2. Russia did not exist at the time of either movement.
  3. Russia was engaged in a 100 Years war with the Ottoman Empire.
  4. both revolutions were confined to Italy.
  5. Mongol rule cut Russia off and isolated her from western contacts.
  6. Russia had no intellectual elites able to understand either movement.
  7. In order to acquire lands to the south and east (the Ukraine), the Russian tsars
  8. married into the ruling dynasties of neighboring states.
  9. recruited semi-nomadic peasants and adventurers and landlords to acquire and to farmlands.
  10. made an alliance with Poland.
  11. launched an Orthodox crusade against the Mongols and Muslims.
  12. became Roman Catholic and sought assistance from the Pope.


  1. In Russia, prior to the 17th century, the group that was most receptive to western or European styles and ideas was
  2. landlords.
  3. Orthodox clergy.
  4. serfs.
  5. free peasants.
  6. tsars.
  1. The only group to support the tsars’ attempts to modernize Russia and increase the power of the central government was
  2. boyars.
  3. urban artisans and merchants.
  4. peasants.
  5. clergy.
  6. ethnic minorities.


  1. Reforms in Russia during the 17th and 18th centuries
  2. were examples of the benefits of world trade.
  3. show cooperation by all classes for the benefit of the nation.
  4. failed to benefit Russia.
  5. led to a revolution against the ruling dynasty.
  6. were due to energetic rulers ordering changes against nearly universal social opposition.
  1. Peter the Great’s symbol of his reforms, Westernization, and foreign policy was
  2. his visit to the West to learn first hand about institutions and technologies.
  3. toleration of religious minorities and laws granting freedom of worship.
  4. the shaving of the nobles’ beards.
  5. building of St. Petersburg as the new capital and a port on the Baltic.
  6. his conversion to Islam.


  1. All of Russia’s reforms under Peter the Great were largely attempts to
  2. preserve Russian cultural identity from Western influences.
  3. protect the serfs from the harsh rule of the boyars.
  4. please his wife, who was Italian.
  5. undermine the power of the Russian Orthodox clergy.
  6. modernize the state and strengthen the army in order to conquer desired lands.
  7. Most Russian reforms under Peter the Great and Catherine the Great
  8. were reversed following their deaths.
  9. were supported by the Orthodox Church.
  10. affected only the educated elites and landowners.
  11. benefited the serfs.
  12. discouraged trade and industry in favor of agriculture.
  1. Modernization and westernization in Russia under Peter the Great and Catherine the Great did not include
  2. military reforms.
  3. liberalizing state policies and tolerating democratic ideas.
  4. educational reforms.
  5. improvements in the conditions of upper-class women.
  6. internal economic and industrial changes.


  1. Although early modern Russia was paternalistic, evidence that reforms in Russia included women is proven by all of these changes EXCEPT the:
  2. right of women to sue in court and divorce their husbands.
  3. rule of four Russian tsarinas (empresses).
  4. right of women to appear in public.
  5. end to the tradition of husbands whipping their wives.
  6. decrees westernizing women’s dress and manners, and permitting education.
  1. In order to accomplish her domestic goals, Catherine the Great
  2. followed Enlightenment ideas and democratized her government.
  3. supported peasant demands for reform and free land.
  4. abolished serfdom and slavery.
  5. supported the French Revolution when it broke out.
  6. allied with the nobles and gave them absolute control over their peasants.


  1. The majority of Russians in early modern Russia were
  2. educated.
  3. merchants and artisans living in Russian cities.
  4. non-Russian minorities.
  5. rural inhabitants, especially serfs.
  6. free peasants.
  1. As Russia expanded
  2. it acquired a larger Russian population.
  3. it became a largely Muslim state.
  4. serfdom spread.
  5. the free population expanded.
  6. nobles lost their influence to merchants and artisans.



  1. In comparison to American slaves, Russian serfs
  2. had fewer rights.
  3. could neither be owned nor sold.
  4. were largely skilled laborers working in export industries.
  5. grew mostly cotton, sugar, and tobacco.
  6. produced only for a domestic, local economy.
  1. Economically, early modern Russia was
  2. largely agricultural and dependent on western trade.
  3. largely industrialized.
  4. poor and backward with few items to export and unable to feed itself.
  5. uninterested in trade because she was economically self-sufficient.
  6. one of the leading partners in international trade.


  1. The greatest source of social unrest in early modern Russia was
  2. noble opposition to westernization.
  3. the clergy and religious opposition to the non-Christian minorities.
  4. rapid growth of towns and factories.
  5. the lack of real reform especially rights for the serfs.
  6. caused by intellectuals and radicals opposed to the tsars’ autocracy.



Compare and contrast Russian serfdom with Latin American, African, and/or American slavery.


Compare and contrast Russian governmental policies and institutions with (1) any West European state (France, England, Spain or Netherlands), or (2) one of the successor states to the Mongols (Ming, Mughals, Safavids, or Ottomans).

How did Russia change from the time of Kiev through the rule of Catherine the Great?


Compare and contrast the role and influence of industry, trade, and commerce in Russia with Western Europe.

Compare and contrast the rise of the Russian Empire with any one Western European maritime empire (Spain, Portugal, England, or France).


Compare and contrast reform and change in Russia with changes that arose in Western Europe from the Renaissance through the Enlightenment.




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